Yes, I know everyone has jumped aboard the Global Warming bandwagon, hammered together the climate change apartment house and moved in lock stock and barrel to the CO2-causes-Climate-Change studio apartment. It’s a shame that such a ramshackle edifice dominates the climate science skyline.
“If all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail.” Abraham Maslow, The Psychology of Science, 1966
Climate change has become the cause celebre of modern thought and action, the hammer employed to bang on almost everything else. Every Progressive cause from highway congestion to homelessness simply must be cast in the glare of Climate Change and/or Global Warming. Every organization from the United Nations to my local County Board of Supervisors is invested in the concept as the source of funding for addressing all social ills.
The basis for this totalitarian acceptance of human caused climate change, aka Anthropogenic Global Warming (AGW) is the theory of radiative forcing of atmospheric warming, the so-called Greenhouse Effect. As we’ll see later, this is an instance of an attempt to prove an experiment by invoking a theory, rather than the accepted scientific process of proving a theory by experimentation and hypothesis testing.
Carbon dioxide radiative forcing was first proposed by Joseph Fourier in 1824, demonstrated by experiment by John Tyndall in 1859, and quantified by Svante Arrhenius in 1896. The unfortunate and inaccurate descriptor “Greenhouse Effect” was first employed by Nils Gustaf Ekholm in 1901.
The basic premise of the “Greenhouse Gas” theory is that greenhouse gases raise the temperature at the surface of the Earth higher than it would be without them (+33º C). Without these gases in the atmosphere (water vapor (0 to 4%), Carbon dioxide (0.0402%), Methane (0.000179%), Nitrous oxide (0.0000325%) and Fluorinated gases (0.000007%) life on this planet would be impossible.
This basic theory is deployed to buttress the assumptions that increased atmospheric greenhouse gas concentrations (mainly CO2) cause increased global average surface temperature, and, therefore lowering atmospheric CO2 concentrations will reduce or even reverse increases in global average surface temperature.
Let’s look at the observations and assumptions that have led to this erroneous conclusion.
Observations and Assumptions
- Observation – Humans produce greenhouse gases through industrial activity, agriculture and respiration, increasing the atmospheric concentration of CO2 from ~300 ppmv to ~400 ppmv over the past 58 years
- Observation – The calculated measure of global average surface temperature has increased by about 0.8° Celsius (1.4° Fahrenheit) since 1880.
- Assumption – Adding more CO2 to the atmosphere causes an increase in global average surface temperature.
- Assumption – Increase in global average surface temperature will cause changes in global climates that will be catastrophic for all life on Earth.
- Conclusion – Therefore, reducing human CO2 production will result in a reduction in atmospheric CO2 concentration and a consequent reduction in increase of global average surface temperature, stabilizing global climates and preventing catastrophic climate change.
Items 1 and 2 are observations with which few climate scientists disagree, though there may be quibbles about the details. CO2 and temperature have both increased, since at least 1850.
Items 3 and 4 are assumptions because there is no evidence to support them. The correlation between global average surface temperature and atmospheric CO2 concentration is not linear and it is not causal. In fact, deep glacial ice cores record that historical increases in CO2 concentration have lagged behind temperature rise by 200 to 800 years, suggesting that, if anything, atmospheric CO2 increase is caused by increase in global average surface temperature.
Nevertheless, the “consensus” pursued by global warming acolytes is that Svante Arrhenius’ 1896 “Greenhouse Gas” theory proves that rising CO2 causes rising temperature.
However, in the scientific method, we do not employ a theory to prove an experiment. Since we have only one coupled ocean/atmosphere system to observe, the experiment in this case is the Earth itself, human CO2 production, naturally occurring climate variation, and observed changes in atmospheric CO2 and global average surface temperature. There is no control with which to compare observations, thus we can make no scientifically valid conclusions as to causation. If we had a second, identical planet earth to compare atmospheric changes in the absence of human produced CO2, we would be able to reach valid conclusions about the role of CO2 in observed climate variation, and we would have an opportunity to weigh other causes of climate variation shared by the two systems.
To escape from our precarious position between the hammer and the nail, we should understand all possible causal factors, human caused, naturally occurring, from within and from without the biosphere in which all life lives.
Based on our current cosmology, it is my conclusion that we live in a chaotic, nonlinear, complex coupled ocean/atmospheric adaptive system, with its own set of naturally occurring and human created cycles that interact to produce the climate variation we observe. This variation is not the simple linear relationship touted by the IPCC and repeated in apocalyptic tones by those who profit from its dissemination, but rather is a complex interplay of varying influences, that results in unpredictable climate variation.
More about chaos and complexity in the next installment.